TRANSPARENCY: WATER USE LICENCES AND AUDIT AND COMPLIANCE REPORTS
Up until recently, the automatic disclosure of water use licences remained a controversial issue. Although water use licences were listed in the previous version of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA) manual of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) as part of the records that are automatically available, such availability was made subject to third-party notification in terms of section 47 of PAIA. This means that the DWS would only disclose water use licences if a holder of the relevant licence was given the opportunity to motivate the refusal of disclosure of the licence. This conditional availability did not accord with the aim of section 15 of PAIA, which is to ensure the automatic disclosure of listed records and results in water use licences. On 1 July 2016, the DWS published an updated PAIA manual in GN R792 in GG 40116 of 1 July 2016 in which it is now confirmed that water use licences, as well as audit and compliance reports, are now automatically available. Access to audit and compliance reports can assist civil society in monitoring environmental compliance of specific operations.
Members of the public who would like to access water use licences, or audit and compliance reports, can email Mr Puseletso Loselo (LoseloP@dws.gov.za). To access the latest version of the DWS’s PAIA manual, click here.
“So what” for my operation?
It is important for your operation to note that the content of water use licences and audit and compliance reports are now regarded as automatically available information. Any individual or organisation can now obtain access to these licences without lodging a formal request in terms of PAIA. Subsequently the public can easily act as “watchdogs” when it comes to the relevant licence holder’s compliance to the conditions of these licences.